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July 21, 2009


(HOUSTON) – Mexican national Cornelio Rangel-Hidalgo, 27, aka El Chino, has been sentenced to prison for possessing counterfeit immigration documents and aiding and abetting the commission of that offense by his co-defendant, Cesar Gutierrez-Mendiola, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. 

Rangel-Hidalgo and Gutierrez-Mendiola, 32, of Mexico, were indicted on Feb. 25, 2009, for possession of counterfeit immigration documents and aiding and abetting, and both men have since pleaded guilty to the federal offense. Today, United States District Judge David Hittner sentenced Rangel-Hidalgo to 12 months and one day in federal prison followed by three years supervised release. Guiterrez-Mendiola is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25, 2009. 

The investigation ultimately leading to the federal charges began in January 2009 when the Houston Police Department (HPD) received information that fraudulent identification documents were being sold at a flea market on the 8800 block of Airline in Houston. HPD used a source of information to introduce an undercover officer to El Chino, later determined to be Rangel-Hidalgo. The officer purchased a fraudulent Texas Identification Card and a fraudulent Social Security Card from Rangel-Hidalgo in the name of Jose Rivera Martinez and made arrangements to purchase more fraudulent identification cards in the future. Rangel-Hidalgo gave the officer his phone number.

On Jan. 21, 2009, HPD shared the results of their investigation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leading to a joint undercover investigation and a meeting with Rangel-Hidalgo at a gas station on the 9600 block of Airline in Houston. HPD Officers placed two passport photographs in an envelope and submitted two false names to be used with the photographs for the creation of the fraudulent documents. Rangel-Hidalgo took possession of the envelope containing the names and passport photographs, stating it would take approximately one hour to process documents and then traveled to the 400 block of Busch in Houston. Rangel-Hidalgo then returned to the same gas station and gave the officer two Social Security Cards and two Alien Registration Receipt Cards in the names of Reynaldo Guzman-Cruz and Rene Patino-Garza for which the officer paid $180.

On Jan. 27, 2009, ICE agents obtained a federal search warrant for the Busch location and seized fraudulent documents, a laptop computer, computer printer, laminating machine, laminating materials, digital storage devices, paper cutters, photographs, miscellaneous documents and $2300 in U.S. currency.

Rangel-Hidalgo admitted his role in the offense and stated he directed Cesar Gutierrez-Mendiola to make six or seven fraudulent documents for him over the course of the past year.

Assistant United States Attorney Douglas Davis is prosecuting the case.

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